Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Brandon James Thomas

West Valley City, Utah

May 7, 2005

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
27 Army Sgt/Civ

19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Utah Army National Guard

 Killed in Baghdad while on a protective detail mission.


From The Salt Lake Tribune sltrib.com 05/08/05:

Published Sunday, May 08, 2005 
Bomb in Iraq kills Utahn 
Brandon Thomas: He was from West Valley City; W. Valley man killed in Iraq suicide attack

By Nate Carlisle 
The Salt Lake Tribune 
"De oppresso liber" is the motto of the U.S. Army special forces, but Brandon Thomas took it as his own. The Latin phrase means, "To liberate the oppressed." The Utah National Guard soldier believed America was doing the right thing in Iraq, and his beliefs took him to that country. But they couldn't deliver him home. 

Thomas, a 27-year-old from West Valley, died Saturday in Iraq from an attack by suicide bombers. The attackers struck shortly after 11 a.m. -- 1 a.m. Mountain time -- as a convoy of three armored SUVs entered Saadoun Street, a crowded commercial avenue in central Baghdad, from Tahrir Square, a large traffic circle, according to The Washington Post. 

The blasts killed two Americans and injured three others in the vehicles, a U.S. Embassy official told the paper. The Americans were employed by a U.S. security contracting firm that he declined to identify. Twenty Iraqis were also killed, he said. 

Thomas' family, who gathered Saturday at his mother's home in Murray, said they didn't know the details of his death. The company Thomas worked for, Fayetteville, N.C.-based CTU Consulting, called his brother early Saturday to inform the family Thomas was dead. A representative of the company did not respond to messages left by The Salt Lake Tribune. 

Carol Young-Thomas said she spoke with her son Friday on Yahoo! Messenger. He told her he was participating in a "hard detail" on Saturday, meaning he was guarding one or more high-profile figures, but he didn't say who. 

Thomas was a sergeant in the Utah Army National Guard, but he had not been deployed to Iraq -- he was working there as a civilian, his family said. Young-Thomas said her son left for Iraq in January when he began working for CTU. 

"He felt like if we didn't stop the terrorism over there, it would be over here," Young-Thomas said. 

Thomas was born March 21,1978, in West Valley City. He graduated from from Cottonwood High School in 1996. 

His family described him yesterday as someone who lived an extreme life. He skied, sky dived and cliff dived. He also spent a few years as an aspiring actor. He had background parts in the television show "Everwood," which films in Salt Lake City, and worked as a stand-in for other actors in the movie "Benji: Off the Leash," which filmed in parts of Utah. 

But Thomas' life changed when terrorists attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001. Young-Thomas said he felt compelled to do something. The month after the attacks, he began the process of enlisting into the National Guard. 

Thomas completed special forces training in North Carolina. He also adopted the special forces motto as his own and gave his mother a necklace pendent inscribed with the phrase. 

"It was his creed, and he took it seriously," said his father Steve Thomas. 

Brandon Thomas hoped to use his military and security experience to enter a career in federal law enforcement. His mother is a retired deputy with the U.S. Marshall's Office. His father is a retired deputy with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. His brother currently works as a deputy in the office. 

Thomas-Young said the Utah National Guard has said Brandon Thomas will be buried with military honors. 

Brandon Thomas is the second West Valley man to die in Iraq this year. U.S. Marine Cpl. Matthew R. Smith and 30 others died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash there. 

From The Salt Lake Tribune sltrib.com 05/20/05:

Published Friday, May 20, 2005 

Obituary: Brandon James Thomas
1978 ~ 2005

The Salt Lake Tribune
SERGEANT BRANDON JAMES THOMAS, "Beej", transitioned from reality to spirituality on May 7, 2005. Brandon (age 27) was murdered in Baghdad while on a protective detail mission, serving the war effort and the war on terrorism, as a Department of Defense contractor. Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the car bomb. Brandon is our fallen hero. 

He is survived by his "little" brother Andy; his father, Steve Thomas and stepmother Debby; his mother, Carol Thomas Young and stepfather Brian Young; grandmother, Lorraine Thomas and (special grandma) Harriett Rhea. 

Many people, who loved him dearly, including his extended family and friends, will miss Brandon. Brandon happily lived every moment with pure excitement. He was an extreme skier, avid golfer, fisherman, and motorcyclist. He loved Jesus, children and proudly serving his country. 

He personally adopted the Special Forces motto, "De Oppresso Liber"... Freedom to the Oppressed. Brandon was a member of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Utah Army National Guard. 

He graduated from Cottonwood High School, class of 1996. He was a ski instructor at Deer Valley. He spoke Spanish and learned Indonesian while finishing his Green Beret Qualification at Ft. Bragg. NC. 

From The Salt Lake Tribune sltrib.com 05/25/05:

Published Wednesday, May 25, 2005 
Soldier remembered for his love of life 

By Matthew D. LaPlante
The Salt Lake Tribune

Some are remembered for the way they lived. Others for the way they died. Brandon Thomas will be remembered in both ways. 

The 27-year-old adventurer was killed by a suicide car bomber May 7 in Iraq, where he had traveled to take a job with an American security company after learning he would not immediately be deployed there as a National Guardsman. 

To longtime friend Randy Larsen, it was a sacrifice worthy of the words of Jesus Christ. 

"A greater love has no man than this -- that he lay down his life for his friends," Larsen said Tuesday, quoting from the Book of John as he stood before his friend's flag-covered casket and hundreds of mourners packed into a Draper church. 

Capt. Eric Eliason, chaplain for the National Guard unit to which Thomas belonged, expanded on that theme at a graveside service later in the day at the Utah State Veteran's Cemetery in Bluffdale. 

"For soldiers and contractors in Iraq," the young chaplain said, the scripture Larsen quoted is "not some abstract platitude, but the gritty reality of their lives." 

And yet it was not the gritty reality of Thomas' final moments in this world that were the focus of Tuesday's remembrances. 

Rather, the life of the stunt-skiing, motorcycle-riding, perpetually laughing man was revealed in stories that began, "I remember this one time . . .. " 

. . . sneaking into a Park City nightclub via a restroom stall. 

. . . fighting with a half-dozen cowboys in a Western dance club. 

. . . skiing with friends he called family, laughing with family he knew as friends. 

The stories shared by Thomas' loved ones were told and met with alternating moments of laughter and tears. But also with expressions of pride. 

For although they consider him a hero for the way he died, to them he was already one for the way he lived.

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